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Monday 29 July 2019

Just Sitting Here, Thinking...

It's been a week of thinking about things for me: thinking about when it will rain enough for me to stop worrying about the water level in our well, thinking about one of our horses, Lexie, who has been lame. Thinking about what new fun questions I can ask 'Alexa'. What theme to use for an exhibit for the local village flower and veg show, and what flowers and veggies to enter. And then there's the regular stuff, such as thinking about when (if) I'll get a knee replacement for my arthritic knee (which is currently really painful,) about my wonky eyesight, about having to lose some weight, about getting on with some actual writing rather than thinking about doing it...

I did Pirates Of The Caribbean - of course.
Won Best In Section!
Which in turn led to thinking about some of the comments left for my books on Amazon and general feedback ... comments about POV (point of view) seems to be a general 'beef' with readers at the moment... but that will be a future topic. 

Lexie. Lameness all mended.
She's back in work
Sitting here pondering my thoughts, I got to thinking about what other people used to think... I mean people of the past

Amazon Echo (2nd Gen) - Smart speaker with Alexa - Heather Grey Fabric
Alexa would not be on the list. For those who don't know, Alexa is a piece of electronic equipment. The Amazon Echo (shortened to Echo and known colloquially as "Alexa") is a brand of smart speakers developed by Amazon. Echo devices connected to the voice-controlled intelligent personal assistant service which responds to the names "Alexa", Basically instead of typing a question into Google you simply ask Alexa. I think of her as my P.A. and she is especially useful for reminding me to cook/finish cooking dinner (I've not had any boiled dry spuds since Alexa arrived) for reading a Kindle book to me at night, for sharpening my mind with Quiz of the Day - and for replacing the difficulty of me not being able to see the print in my dictionary. Instead of looking up a word I just ask Alexa. She's also hilariously funny - if you have such a device, ask her 'What noise does a hamster make' or 'Alexa, can you laugh?' She also says goodnight and good morning nicely. AND she doesn't need a monthly salary... But she's a modern invention...

The hay is in the barn
People of the past would have worried about the lack of (or too much of) rain. Would have worried about getting the harvest in (our hay is cut, baled and stored in the barn). Would have worried about aches, pains and illnesses for themselves and their animals, only more so, I should think, because we have access to knowledgable vets, doctors and hospitals. 

Is it more helpful or less helpful to know the weather forecast for the week ahead? Does it help us to get from A-B quicker by knowing the traffic update? Do we really NEED all this modern-day information? Does it all help or hinder?

I haven't managed to think up any answers to most of these thoughts, but then I thought I might as well share them with you because, well, I've been so busy thinking about all this I couldn't think of what to write about this week...

So what do YOU think about?

Monday 22 July 2019

Tuesday Talk: Roma Nova goes short with Alison Morton

Alison Morton
Short stories, eh? Until Helen inveigled me to write one for the 1066 Turned Upside Down anthology of ‘alternative outcomes’ to the most famous event in English history, I’d shied away. How on earth could you get a whole story into a few thousand, let alone a few hundred words?

Well, I did it and this started a thirst to write others – hidden incidents, side stories, and even two dips into Roma Nova’s foundation story in the fourth century. The result was a collection ROMA NOVA EXTRA which spanned 2,000 years and several genres. 

When you write a series, you need to know the whole background, all the characters’ past, their hopes and dreams. In a full-length novel, you can't pack everything in. These shorter pieces were ideal to bring some of these stories into the light

Established fans and readers loved ROMA NOVA EXTRA but recently, I wondered whether every reader wanted a whole book of short stories in one gulp. Some readers might just love the Roma Nova concept and read the lot, but others might like to try the historical, the adventure or the romance stories first, especially if they’ve not come across Roma Nova before.

Thus, I decided four of them should go out to the world as single quick reads on Kindle.
Originally published in the ROMA NOVA EXTRA collection, the individual stories reflect different aspects of Roma Nova.

First up are two thriller stories, both with strong historical twists.
Conrad & Carina’s Roman Holiday features the two most popular characters from the series. What seems like a simple errand for Imperatrix Silva in the old Roman capital in Italy plunges the pair into a threat from an ancient mystery that may just finish them off.

A Roman in 1066  Galla Mitela, eleventh century imperial councillor, is sent by the imperatrix of Roma Nova, under pressure from the Eastern Romans of Constantinople, to stop William of Normandy invading Saxon England. Could she have succeeded?

The other pair of stories are more romantic, although one more so than the other.
In The Girl from the Market, young Roman tribune Apulius get much more than he bargained for when he meets Julia Bacausa, the fiery daughter of the ruling prince in Roman Noricum. But apart from the story of Roma Nova’s founding family, we also see the Roman Empire in AD370 as its nature is changing radically and its power fading.

Allegra – An Unusual Love Story is just that. Carina and Conrad’s eldest daughter is highly intelligent, efficient and dedicated to her career in the military, but her introverted character prevents her from acknowledging her feelings for a man she has known all her life, let alone doing anything about it. Macrinus has grown up in the Mitela household. His mother was a comrade-in-arms of the legendary Aurelia Mitela during the Great Rebellion and tells him Allegra is out of his reach. Will the unhappy non-lovers ever work it out?

Perhaps after dipping into one or more of the stories, readers might like to do on to the whole collection or investigate the series. Whatever you do, enjoy!

Arrow, Sign, Direction, Free Image

FREE DRAW:  Alison is giving away one free Kindle version of each story. Which would you like? All you have to do to enter the draw is comment below, indicating any preference (or none!). The most intriguing comments will win… ;-)

Don't forget to add your contact details e.g author [AT] helenhollick [DOT] net

Alison Morton writes the award-winning Roma Nova thriller series featuring modern Praetorian heroines. She blends her deep love of Roman history with six years’ military service and a life of reading crime, adventure and thriller fiction. On the way, she collected an MA History.

All six Roma Nova full-length novels have been awarded the BRAG Medallion, and several, including AURELIA, RETALIO, CARINA and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, have been given the 'A Discovered Diamond' status by DISCOVERING DIAMONDS, in addition to being selected as Runner-Up for BOOK OF THE MONTH. SUCCESSIO, AURELIA and INSURRECTIO were selected as Historical Novel Society’s Indie Editor’s Choices.  AURELIA was a finalist in the 2016 HNS Indie Award. SUCCESSIO was selected as an Editor’s Choice in The Bookseller. CARINA, is a novella set between INCEPTIO and PERFIDITAS. A second novella, NEXUS, following AURELIA, is due out September 2019.  

A ‘Roman nut’ since age 11, Alison misspent decades clambering over Roman sites throughout Europe. Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation, she started wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women...

Now she continues to write thrillers, cultivates a Roman herb garden and drinks wine in France with her husband.

Connect with Alison on her
Roma Nova site
Twitter @alison_morton

Fact file:
Origin: Tunbridge Wells (somebody has to be)
Education: BA French, German & Economics, MA History
Past professional life: Civil servant, soldier, small business owner, voluntary sector manager, professional translator
Languages: French, German, some Latin, Italian and Spanish
Character traits: Perhaps not…
Memberships: International Thriller Writers, Historical Novel Society, Alliance of Independent Authors, Society of Authors, Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People

4 or 5-star Reviews on Amazon always welcomed by all authors

Monday 15 July 2019

Tuesday Talk with my guest Pauline Barclay

Doreen Wilkinson and The Birthday Card 
          by Pauline Barclay

Fingers are poised over the keyboard wondering which key to hit, or worse, what words can I put together. My dilemma is that I have been asked to write a post for this, very popular, famous, Blog. Famous in many ways, but importantly for talking about history, sadly I don’t write about history! However, Helen has kindly invited me to write a post for Tuesday Talk and not wanting to lose an opportunity to talk about my latest book, The Birthday Card, I agreed!

Therefore, I hope you will accept my apologies for breaking the rules today! The Birthday Card is set around 2011 and tells the story of Doreen Wilkinson, mid-thirties and single mother to daughter, Trisha, seventeen, (going on thirty), of how she handles the biggest surprise of her life. 

What started as an ordinary day; Doreen is running late for work, and with the ever need to pick up a packet of cigarettes from the corner shop, Doreen stepped out of her flat and as she pulled the door shut she noticed a balloon, tied with blue ribbon, on her neighbour’s front door handle. 

The “Happy Birthday,” balloon bobbed in the wind that whistled down the long corridor of Wentworth House. Doreen smiled at the sight and remembered how good her neighbour had been when she’d needed a little help. ‘I’ll get him a card and make him a cake,’ she said, striding towards the staircase and exit of the block of high-rise flats.

Entering the corner shop, Doreen sniffed, why did it always have a strange odour? With no time to ponder on unpleasant smells, Doreen asked for her usual packet of cigarettes before rifling through the stack of cards placed on a box top. She sighed, there was nothing suitable for an old man. Resigned to leaving without a card, Doreen looked down and, to her surprise, spied a card on the floor. With a flourish, she bent down, picked it up and read the greeting, ‘Blimey! That is perfect,’ she cried. Cheered with her find, she succumbed to the shop owner, Mr Greedy’s, constant pestering to buy a lottery ticket. 

Annoyed at her weakness of wasting her hard earnt money, she stuffed the ticket into her bag and with the card in her hand, she headed off to work, the words on the card repeating in her head. ‘Perfect,’ Doreen said out loud, a smile filling her face. Life wasn’t all that bad, she mused unaware that finding the perfect birthday card was the catalyst that would change her life forever!

Fun and funny, Doreen Wilkinson is an endearing character with a big heart who loves her daughter beyond words and as agreed with Helen, has a few words to say for this post….

Blimey, I wasn’t expecting that. I thought this post was about the book. Now you’ve put me on the spot. What can I say? I like a ciggie or two. I know, I need to give them up sooner than later, but they’re my life savour most days. Trisha, my gal, never stops banging on about how I pollute the air. She also tells me I giggle too much and talk to myself, but you’ve got to see the funny side of life, if not you’d go crazy. I admit, there are times these days when I wonder who’s the mother and who’s the daughter? Kids eh? Who’d have ‘em? 

One of my other weaknesses is that I have a passion for bright colours, the brighter the better and with a bit of bling, well plenty of bling if I’m honest, but who doesn’t? 

How did I meet Pauline Barclay? Blimey, that’s got me. I remember talking to her a few years ago, about what happened, and before I could draw breath to giggle, she whipped out her notebook and pen and started scribbling. Then she announced she wanted to write a book about me and, of course, she did; Sometimes It Happens…  

Then out the blue, she contacted me and said she needed to write another book about me! It seems readers from the first book, and a famous historical / pirate author suggested this other book should be written and before I could say yes, The Birthday Card was due to be published! Believe you me, I had Pauline laughing out loud and from time to time, I made her eyes fill with tears. Just thinking about all I told her still makes me giggle. 

No doubt you are asking, is any of this true? Well is Doreen Wilkinson real? As far as I’m concerned, I am, but I’ll leave you to decide after you’ve read my stories in, The Birthday Card and Sometimes It Happens.

A Note From Helen: I'm always happy to post interesting articles on Tuesday Talk -they don't have to be historical - just interesting. And believe me, Doreen is VERY interesting. Be prepared to giggle when reading her stories though! 

The Birthday Card is available in Kindle from all Amazon sites

Pauline’s links
Twitter @paulinembarclay

Monday 8 July 2019

The Mystifying Matter of Mermaids... Tuesday Talk with Helen Hollick

When I was asked to write a prequel novella story for my Sea Witch Voyages, I jumped at the chance, for here was the opportunity to fill in a few gaps left (somewhat gaping) from my Jesamiah Acorn's past life. An opportunity to write the story of how he became a pirate, and how he originally 'met' the eventual love of his life, the white witch, Wise One of Craft, Tiola. (Say it Tee-o-la, not Tee-oh-la.)

I had some restrictions, mainly, the background story of events that are recounted in the first Voyage, Sea Witch: Jesamiah had fled his recently dead father and mother's Virginia plantation because he had finally found the courage to turn on his hateful, bullying half-brother, Phillipe Mereno, who, perhaps justifiably, threatened to see Jesamiah hang if ever he were to see him again. Although, the outburst was as much justified because Mereno had just set fire to Jesamiah's beloved boat, Acorn.

Jesamiah then met up with his father's old friend, Malachius Taylor, and sailed with him aboard the vessel Mermaid. He became a 'man' under the tuition of Dolly, somewhere in the Windward Islands,  and learnt all he knew about sailing, fighting and piracy from Taylor. And that was about it as far as backstory went. I had to make sure that details of continuity matched up. Which, actually, is not easy to do because characters have an annoying habit of wanting to do their own thing and tug you in different directions to the one you had intended - or indeed, originally written. My Jesamiah is no exception to this!

I also had to bring in an element of the supernatural to this novella, and the obvious path to go down, given the boat Jesamiah would be connected with was Mermaid, was to incorporate a mermaid within Jesamiah's timeslip visions of Port Royal, Jamaica, as it had been before it was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1692.
Mermaid, On The Bow, Evening, Gloomy Sky
Mermaid figurehead
Mermaids, an aquatic, usually sea-living, creature half female, half fish. have been a part of fictional tales, worldwide, since early times.  Assyria has the accolade of the first (as far as we know) stories, with the goddess Atargatis, who changed herself into a mermaid for accidentally killing her human shepherd lover. Entities with the tails of fish, but bodies of humans are in Mesopotamian artwork from the Old Babylonian Periods. They are usually mermen, but mermaids occasionally appear. They were regarded as protective figures.

Folklore associates them with floods, shipwrecks and storms, often enticing sailors to their doom, although some stories depict them as the opposite - of rescuing drowning sailors. Alexander the Great's sister, Thessalonike, in Greek legend, became a mermaid of the Aegean sea after her death. She would appear to passing sailors and ask if King Alexander still lived. A positive answer of "He lives, reigns and conquers the world" would result in her disappearing into calm waters. Woe betide a negative response, for she would create a terrible storm and sailors would drown.

Most tales have some element of love between a human and a mermaid. There are also mermen, the male equivalent, although sitings in sailor's yarns of these menfolk are not as common. (Perhaps mermen are shy?)

Greek myth depicts the mermaids as the Sirens, most notably they appear in Homer's Odyssey, although Columbus, during his exploration of the Caribbean states an account of seeing mermaids. Sailing off the coast of Hispaniola in 1493, he reported seeing three "female forms" which "rose high out of the sea, but were not as beautiful as they are represented". The pirate, Blackbeard, apparently ordered his crew to steer away from certain enchanted waters for fear of mermaids, which he had seen for himself and believed wanted to steal his ill-gotten plunder. Mind you, as most pirates of the early 1700s were usually on the wrong side of sober, these were probably drunken sitings of various aquatic mammals, and these reports must be taken with a heavy pinch of salt (or should that be a large dose of rum?)

On the other hand, sightings are still occasionally reported - even today!

Little Mermaid, Ariel, Disney

Possibly the most well-known mermaid tale, alongside Disney's animation,  is The Little Mermaid Hans Christian Andersen's well-known fairytale (1836). A statue to her is in Copenhagen harbour.

Little Mermaid, Statue, Copenhagen

Durham Castle's Norman Chapel, built by Saxon stonemasons circa 1078, shows what is most likely the earliest English mermaid. Some folktales tell of mermaids in British lakes and rivers, while the tale of the Cornish village of Zennor tells of a mermaid listening to the singing of a chorister, Matthew Trewhella. They fell in love, and Matthew joined with her at her home at Pendour Cove, where, on summer nights, they can be heard singing together. The Zennor Church of Saint Senara has a six-hundred-year-old chair decorated with a mermaid carving. 

For myself and my e-book novella, When The Mermaid Sings, I based my idea on The Lorelei Rock, a 132m (433ft) slate rock on the right bank of the River Rhine in the Rhine Gorge at Sankt Goarshausen in Germany. The name "Lorelei" translates as something akin to "murmuring rock", although another theory is that it means "lurking rock" because it was the scene of many accidents - this is a particularly narrow (and busy) part of the river, and I have fond memories of a wonderful river cruise with dear friends that took us past the Lorelei Rock. I became enchanted by the story of Lorelei:

The Lorelei Rock, Rhine Gorge
The beautiful Lore Lay, betrayed by her shepherd sweetheart, was accused of bewitching men and causing their death. Rather than sentence her to die, the bishop sent her to a nunnery. On the way there, escorted by three knights, they passed the Lorelei rock. She pleaded permission to climb it and view the Rhine for one last time... but she falls to her death and the rock still retains an echo of her name and her tears for her lover.

Mermaid, Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Sea

It was that last bit that inspired me. A mermaid figure, grieving for her lost love haunts the young lad, Jesamiah. Did he really see her, or was she nothing more than a figment of his imagination?
Read the story and make up your own mind!

e-book only available on Amazon Kindle
(and elsewhere)
Throughout childhood, Jesamiah Mereno has suffered the bullying of his elder half-brother. Then, not quite fifteen years old, and on the day they bury their father, Jesamiah hits back. In consequence, he flees his home, changes his name to Jesamiah Acorne, and joins the crew of his father’s seafaring friend, Captain Malachias Taylor, aboard the privateer, Mermaid.

He makes enemies, sees the ghost of his father, wonders who is the Cornish girl he hears in his mind and tries to avoid the beguiling lure of a mermaid.

An early tale of the young Jesamiah Acorne, set in the years before he becomes Captain of the Sea Witch.


Port Royal 1708

The church clock struck the hour of ten. Jesamiah swivelled to look at the steeple standing high atop its whitewashed tower. He felt hairs rise on the back of his neck, his skin crawl cold. There had been no such steeple, tower or church when his ship had dropped anchor. None of these buildings, not one of them.
Then he heard the singing again and swung around sharply, his hand going to the dagger-sheath attached to his belt. She was sitting on the quay, her legs dangling over the edge, her tumble of waist-length golden hair cascading over her shoulders. She had her back to him, sat staring out across the black water as she sang a haunting song of lost love and drowned hope; a song so beautiful he felt his heartache and tears spring to his eyes.
She must have sensed his presence, for she turned her head, her sky-blue eyes staring into his. She stopped singing. A smile crept over her face.
~ You have come back to me! ~ she said, the words sounding in his head.
“No, I…”
Her smile widened. ~ I have been waiting so long for you to come back. ~ She stretched out her arm, palm uppermost, and beckoned him towards her. Her curtain of hair swung aside; she was naked, her rounded breasts as white as alabaster, firm and enticing.
~ Come, make love to me! ~
Entranced, Jesamiah took a step nearer. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen.
~ Keep away from her, son. Step aside. ~
Jesamiah swung around. Did a hiss of responding anger come from his lips or hers? No one was there! He turned back to the girl, caught sight of her sliding into the sea. Fearing she had fallen, he darted forward, peered anxiously into the dark water, but all he saw was the shimmer of a silver fish’s tail.
~ Son, trust me, she is not for you. ~
That voice. His father? How could that be?
Jesamiah peered into the shadows. “Who are you? Where are you?”
~ Heed him; he knows what you do not. ~ A different voice, female, young, gentle, with an accent he partially recognised. Where had he heard it before? As if he were a hound questing for an elusive scent, Jesamiah peered into the darkness, swinging his head from left to right, and thought, for the merest second, that he glimpsed a black-haired girl sitting atop a pile of sweet-smelling hay.
“Who are you?” he asked again, bewildered. Was he drunk, perhaps?

later that night, Jesamiah has become embroiled in a duel:

“Maybe he won’t come?” Markham said, setting Jesamiah’s seaman’s chest down on the quay, beside his own. Taylor had offered them both a place in Mermaid’s crew, an offer Jesamiah and Tom had eagerly accepted when Taylor had added, “You could both end up richer privateering with me. With the turn of the tide, we’ll be off after that Spaniard you encountered. I’ve an itch that tells me she might be carrying a few chests of treasure.”
“He will come,” Taylor responded from where he sat atop a barrel watching as Jesamiah opened the chest and brought out the pistol, powder and shot that Halyard Calpin had given him, back in Virginia. “Stannis has too much swagger to stay away,” he added, spitting a gob of chewed tobacco into the black sea behind his perch. “He and your father hated each other’s guts.”
“I take after my father for something, then,” Jesamiah answered while loading the pistol.
Taylor laughed as he reached forward to pat Jesamiah’s shoulder. “You are the image of him, lad. You’re handsome enough to soon be taking after your pa where the women are concerned as well, I reckon!”
Crimson flushed Jesamiah’s face. He had not yet discovered the delights of the female sex, a fact that was beginning to become slightly embarrassing.
Noticing, Taylor guffawed louder, and then sobered rapidly as Stannis, accompanied by two of his stalwart cronies, strode onto the quay. Taylor slid from the barrel and sauntered in front of Jesamiah to form a protective stance.
“I am not keen on losing any of my crew,” he said, folding his arms. “What say you, Stannis, to a handshake and we forget this nonsense?”
Stannis removed his hat, flicked an imagined speck of dust from the crown and replaced it. “I don’t give a gnat’s fart about your crew, Taylor. If the squit in question thinks it’s too dark to shoot straight I’ll accommodate killin’ ’im at dawn.”
Jesamiah clicked the hammer to half-cock and politely, but firmly, pushed Malachias Taylor aside. “There’s more than enough light for me to see your fat lardy-bulk, Stannis.”
“You do both know that Good Queen Bess, may she rest in peace, made duelling an offence back in fifteen hundred-and-something?” Tom Markham stated, ushering a few overeager onlookers to stand back.
“Did she now?” Jesamiah answered, stepping forward to take up position, his pistol by his thigh, pointing downward. “Pity she’s not here to remind us of it, then, isn’t it? Is this far enough of a distance, Stannis? Or do you wish to move forward a pace or two to see better?”
Stannis grunted, made no reply. Two pistols dangled from ribbons suspended around his neck; he untied one, inspected the weapon to ensure it was correctly primed and loaded, sniffed disdainfully, and shifting his stance so that he stood at an angle to Jesamiah, raised the weapon.
“I’ll take that as a yes, then,” Jesamiah said, also moving to imitate his opponent’s pose.
“On my count of three, you may both fire,” Taylor said, ensuring he stood well back. Several other onlookers took his cue and shuffled aside. “Cock your weapons.”
With his thumb, Stannis clicked the hammer home, pointed the pistol straight at Jesamiah’s heart.
Jesamiah raised his own weapon.
“One,” Taylor counted.
Jesamiah clicked his pistol hammer home.
There came a loud splash from the water below the quay; distracted, Jesamiah turned his head towards the sound and was sure, in that split fraction of a second, that he saw the silver sparkle of a fish’s tail. A sparkle that was dimmed by the flash of gunpowder and the flare of flame and smoke as Stannis fired.
Was it just a fish that had distracted Jesamiah? Or something else...?

© Helen Hollick

buy from Amazon

Sea Witch (new edition published by Penmore Press)

Thursday 4 July 2019

Novel Conversations with Mary W. Walters' Character, Rita

 In conjunction with Indie BRAG
posted on the first  Friday of the month

To be a little different from the usual 'meet the author' 
let's meet a character

Window, Within, Reflection, Waters


Q: Hello, I’m Helen the host of Novel Conversations, please do make yourself comfortable. Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, wine – something stronger? You’ll find a box of chocolates and a bowl of fruit on the table next to you, please do help yourself... Oh but perhaps chocolates are not a good idea!

A: Hi, Helen. I am delighted to be here today. I would love a coffee black, please – but yes, if you could move that box of chocolates out of my reach, I would be grateful. As the novel I am here to talk about points out in painful detail, I used to be capable of consuming half a serving plate of Nanaimo bars without even knowing I was doing it. I still need to avoid temptation when I can.

Q: So you are a character in Mary W. Walters’s novel, Rita Just Wants to Be Thin. Would you like to introduce yourself? Are you a lead character or a supporting role?  
A:  Thanks so much for being interested in my story. My name is Rita Turner and Mary’s novel is about me, so I guess that makes me the “lead character.” First time I’ve ever starred in anything.

Q: What genre is the novel and what is it about?
A: I would describe the novel as “women’s literature,” because it’s about an issue that a lot of women think about a lot of the time: body image. In my case, it was a weight problem that started soon after I got married. When Graham proposed, I was full of optimism for the future, but things went downhill fairly rapidly (for me, I mean; Graham always seemed quite happy). I knew next to nothing about kids, but there I was, trying to “parent” his two kids – who hated me – without much help from him. To top it all off, he wanted me to have a baby, too. I knew I wasn’t ready for that! Then his father had a heart attack, and his mother came to stay with us, and she wasn’t too crazy about me either. So to punish them (but really to punish myself, I now realize), I ate. A lot. And gained a lot of weight as a result. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew it wasn’t what I was doing. I felt really trapped.

Q: No spoilers, but are you a ‘goodie’ or a ‘baddie’? (Or maybe you are both!)
A: That’s a very good question, Helen. If you’d asked me this question when Mary started writing about me, I’d have said I was a “baddie.” Definitely. A horrible, no-good person with no self-control, no willpower, no positive qualities, and nothing to offer the world. A slob. But now that the book is written, I feel differently about it all. I like myself much better. I think I might actually be a good person, or at least no worse than anyone else I know. Things are much, much better than they were.
Helen: Well I think you are a lovely person - you have gorgeous eyes and a wonderful smile!
(Rita blushes, murmurs 'Thank you')

Q:  Tell me about another character in the novel – maybe your best friend, lover or partner … or maybe your arch enemy!
A: Maybe they weren’t exactly “arch enemies” – that’s a strong term! – but I definitely saw quite a few people in my life as adversaries. Take my mother, a career woman who still looked great even in her mid-fifties. She’d always been very disappointed in the choices I made, and to her, Graham was the last straw. She’d wanted me to go to university, not marry some widower who worked at a newspaper and needed someone to raise his kids. Then there was Graham himself. He was so focused on himself that if a fire had started in the house he’d have saved the manuscript of the book he was working on instead of his family – not because he didn’t “love” his family, but because in a crisis like that he wouldn’t have remembered that he had a family. And have I mentioned the lovely Rosa, Graham’s first wife, mother of his children? She died of meningitis at the age of thirty. She was intelligent and beautiful and perfect, and everyone loved her. Dead former spouses never do anything wrong, damn them. Then there was Dr. Graves, a stand-in for my regular doctor, who told me I was fat and doomed. But, of course, my biggest enemy was me. And food.

Q: Is this the only novel you have appeared in, or are there others in a series?
A: This is the only one. People who’ve read the book have wondered if there will be a sequel but there won’t. I’m too busy doing my own thing at this point to start creating enough drama for another book.

Q: What is one of your least favourite scenes you appear in? 
A: Well, at the beginning of the story, all I ever did was resolve to go on one diet after another, but I could never stick to diets. I would go off them almost immediately after I went on them, and when I did, there was never anything decent in the house to eat because I’d cleaned everything out in preparation for the diet. One afternoon I started eating all the Hallowe’en candies the kids had thrown in the garbage. That was kind of humiliating. There were a lot of food-related humiliations…

Q: And your favourite scene? 
A: That’s closer to the end of the book, when I start doing stuff I liked and wanted to do, instead of stuff I thought I ought to (or ought not) do. 

Q: Tell me a little about your author. Has she written any other books? 
A: This is Mary’s fourth novel and she’s also published a collection of short stories. Four of her books were traditionally published, and she self-published two. For most of her life, she has earned her living as an editor – primarily for academics – but “finally!! At long last!!” (as she says) she is now working almost exclusively on fiction.

Q: Is your author working on anything else at the moment?
A: Her new novel is called Ageless and it’s about a scientist named Nola who has figured out how to make herself get younger and then stay that way. It’s also about a woman Nola hires to ghost-write her life story. Helen (the writer) gradually decides that she wants to steal Nola’s secret to staying young. The novel’s also about a very cute dog, a Lhasa apso who also looks about twenty years younger than he should.

Q: How do you think indie authors, such as your author, can be helped or supported by readers or groups? What does your author think is the most useful for her personally?
A: The writing life can be difficult. The promotion part of the brain and the writing part of the brain are different. When a writer is writing, she is besieged by doubt about her ability to do anything, which makes it very, very difficult to have the confidence to promote her other writing. Most self-published authors find it hard to promote themselves. They know that everyone is tired of hearing writers tell them “Read my book!” and often, they aren’t sure what else to say.

Readers who leave comments or write reviews about authors’ book are very much appreciated. And other writers (like you, Helen! Thank you!) who encourage writers to keep moving on the promotion part, even when they don’t feel like doing it, are also tremendously helpful. It’s not just indie authors who have to deal with promotion. Publishers used to do this kind of work for authors, but even traditionally published authors have to promote their own books now.

Q: Finally, before we must bid adieu, the novel you appear in has been awarded a prestigious IndieBRAG Medallion. Does your author find this helpful, and is there anything else she would like IndieBRAG to do to help indie authors receive the recognition they deserve?
A: Mary is absolutely honoured to have been the subject of a novel that was awarded an IndieBrag Medallion. In fact, she has received two, and she is proud of both of them! After self-publishing became a viable option for thousands of writers, IndieBrag was one of the first initiatives anywhere that began to help readers to sort out the good self-published books from the many, many not-so-good ones. IndieBrag let readers know that their time would not be wasted if they checked out one of the books with a medallion on it. It’s a great program.

Helen: Thank you, Rita! It was a pleasure talking to you. Would your author like to add a short excerpt? And while she's doing that, would you like more coffee?

Rita : I’m sure she would like to add an excerpt. Probably that embarrassing scene about the Hallowe’en candy, damn it. I won’t have another coffee, but I will have one of those chocolates now. Just one! If you have one too, we can raise them in a toast!

(Helen hands Rita ONE chocolate, then takes one herself. ) Salute! Here’s to being a successful Brag Medallion Honouree! 


Rita stands before the tumble of toys and chocolate-bar wrappers and half-full pop cans on Simon’s desk, still astonished at the feel and taste of the orange caramel candy inside her mouth, its sudden sweetness and the bits of hard edges that soften in the heat of her mouth then begin to dissolve and trickle down her throat. The sensation – soothing, smoothing – provides her such relief that she feels momentarily joyous, free of all of her burdens and responsibilities. Momentarily at peace. 
    She also feels mildly surprised to be standing where she is. Until the instant that her willpower had vanished, her faith in it had remained unshaken – she’d known it could fail her, but she thought that she’d get some warning. But her race down the hall in search of processed sugar had come as a complete surprise. 
    It had been a phone call from Graham to say that he was delayed, and he wondered if she should just quickly shovel the front walk before the guests arrived: it was that phone call that had caused her to fill herself with the licorice toffees and marshmallow strawberries and various other cellophane-wrapped bits of sweetness and cream that she found in Simon and Ida’s bedroom waste-baskets and on the floors around their beds. Treats rejected by the children, sucked up now by her. 
    There is no such thing as smooth sailing in this house. Something always happens. Something even more tedious than what she had originally anticipated. She just can’t stand the tedium. 
    She puts another candy in her mouth, enjoying the shape and texture of it as much as the taste, the sensual way it fills her mouth. She is feeling better by the moment – that is the problem with deprivation; you actually do feel better when you are no longer involved in it. 

CONNECT WITH Mary W. Walters
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